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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

A Trio of New Poems by Langston Hughes

By February 3, 2009

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Sunday would have been Langston Hughes’ 107th birthday, and it’s also the first day of Black History Month—how fitting, then, to celebrate both by taking note of three never-before-known and newly rediscovered Hughes poems, found scribbled in the flyleaves of a book from his personal library.

from Weekend America (PBS radio show):
New Langston Hughes Poems Discovered,” by Larissa Anderson
“It’s Langston Hughes’s birthday this weekend, and people across the country are celebrating one of America’s most beloved poets with poetry performances and other events. Poetry magazine has given Langston Hughes fans even more reason to celebrate. This month’s issue features three previously unpublished Langston Hughes poems, written in 1930.”

Poetry magazine’s January 2009 edition features the new poems, with comments by Hughes’ biographer Arnold Rampersad and a note on their discovery:

“The three poems were written in pencil on the endpapers of Langston Hughes’s edition of An Anthology of Revolutionary Poetry (Active Press, 1929). They were discovered by Penny Welbourne, a rare book cataloger at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, where the Hughes papers are housed. This is their first known publication.”
Minor works, perhaps, certainly brief and simple in language and form, but the newly discovered poems are especially resonant now, 78 years after they were written, when American society is experiencing parallel economic hardship and upheaval, and yet, and yet, the man we have elected to lead us out of the morass is a black man. Here then, are the poems:

More on Langston Hughes:
Our profile of Hughes
Books by Langston Hughes

Other recently rediscovered poems:
A new poem by William Shakespeare (April 2007)
A Robert Frost poem handwritten & hidden away: “War Thoughts at Home” (September 2006)
An ancient poem carved in stone (September 2006)
Rediscovered: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Poetical Essay against war (July 2006)
A new Sappho poem comes to light (June 2005)
“And Yet”... A new Philip Larkin poem comes to light after a half century lost in the library (August 2004)


February 5, 2009 at 11:59 am
(1) BookDragon says:

It pains me to read these poems. Even understanding their righteousness, racism is still racism. We need to go to the next step and work together to address poverty and prejudice and inequality for all peoples. I understand the historical times in which these were written, but “A Dream Deferred” speaks to all whose dream was deferred by hatred, prejudice and greed.

February 2, 2012 at 8:00 am
(2) TIM DYSON says:

L. Hughes’ genuine and heartfelt candor about the plight of the black man does not grind with bitterness. It shines like a nugget of truth. And though I am not wise enough to understand it, I am thankful for the legacy he gave us. He llives on through his poetry and I hope he’s being taught to today’s youth.

Tim Dyson

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